1. SR.AUGUSTINE (1899-1959)
Sr. Augustine was a senior sister when I joined the convent. She was the professor of History in St.Teresa’s College and in addition she was the aunt of Sr.Fatima. That was a great distinction as Sr.Fatima was the much feared sacristan for us novices! She was also the headmistress of the high school. They were so different; Sr.Fatima, tall, light complexioned and serious (or that was what we thought), while Sr. Augustine was short, dark and cheerful. Nor did they exhibit any loving relationship as aunt and niece. I remember her, at one entertainment decked in a green dress and a stylish hat, seated on a chair and a group of sisters dancing around her singing a song about ‘my aunt’. The smile on her face was charming! But generally she looked at us novices with a sort of severe mien. Perhaps it was just a put-on.
After I was professed I was in the same dormitory as Sr. Augustine. One day I found out her dark secret; she had a beard! She used to secretly pluck it out in the toilet much to Sr.Redempta’s annoyance, as she spent some time doing her secret chore. When I told her I had found her out she was taken aback. I confided to her, not to worry, I too had hairs on my chin (which have since grown into a beard, by the way!) and she felt we were kindred spirits from then on. I loved to joke and tease her but she was such a sport.
Recreations were joyous because of “Gussy”.She and Sr. Marie Therese used to have sparring matches (arguments just to tease each other) while we juniors watched with great glee. Her brother, Sr. Fatima’s father used to send her Rs.25 annually for her feast; a princely sum in those days, for a treat for the sisters. She would go round asking the sisters, “What do you want?” Everyone had to say, “Onion bajes” There was no option. If you said something else, she would ask you again and the sisters would coax you around to opt for onion bajjies. Then on August 28th, the feast day, we would get lovely hot onion bajjies for tea and she and we would be delighted.
She had such a kind heart. Hearing from me about my ‘beard’ she searched for a piece of mirror stuck it on a piece of cloth and sewed a little pocket mirror for me. I was so touched and kept it for many years after that, just in remembrance of her. There was a little child who was brought to the St.Anne’s boarding .She cried for several days, missing her mother. Sr Augustine stitched her a cloth doll to console her. We had no pocket money or any means to procure things for ourselves or anyone, you should remember.
One night Sr. Ursula gave us an alarm; she was dying. We rushed to her bedside in various stages of undress! M.Alphonsus was at Sr. Ursula’s bedside holding the cross to her sunken lips.Sr.Theodora was busy invoking, “Mer-ci-ful Jee-sus” to which we all answered distractedly, ‘grant her.......’ .Sr. Marie Therese thought that since she was almost as good as dead, it would be Ok to say the usual response, “Grant her eternal rest.” Gussy was annoyed, especially because it was Sr. Marie Therese. She responded emphatically, “Grant her a happy death.” and glared at Sr.M.Therese.The latter was now more than ever determined and answered purposefully, but most meekly, “Grant her eternal rest”.
The verbal dual went on with the rest of us holding our noses to control our laughter. Finally Sr. Ursula gave Gussy the victory by living.
Poor Gussy began to lose her memory quite early. She was just in her sixties when it began. They first discovered it when she was found at the gate, bag in hand, going, she said, to Maharaja’s college to correct papers. It got gradually worse. Once she asked M.Alphonsus to go home to visit her mother. Mother, not realizing the situation said, “Sister, your Mother died long ago.” Sister was furious.She was loud in declaring Mother inhuman and what not. I finally told her that Mother has given permission, but we need to buy a ticket, so she should go and rest and I would purchase the ticket and after tea, put her in the bus to go home. She was satisfied. She went to rest and of course forgot the whole thing by tea time.
Later she was sent to Mattom to live in the annex with a woman to take care of her. We used to visit her frequently, but her memory faded further till she could remember nothing. It was so sad. One day she was found with a broken leg, fallen in the toilet. She was rushed to the hospital, but she could not be successfully treated because of her diabetes. When she was laid in her coffin her beard had grown pretty long. I was determined she should go to Heaven with a clear chin, so Sr.Felicitas and I gave her a clean cut and made her presentable. I look forward to spending many happy times with her in Heaven and please God, we both won’t have to worry about our beards!